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Gay's Arcade

Home > Adelaide > Architecture | Cafes | Shopping
by Laura Parsons (subscribe)
Laura is a freelance writer, tutor & op-shop Queen, living in northern SA.
Published April 11th 2015
Which city arcade has its own museum?
Many Adelaideans do not know that the beautiful little arcade which links the historic Adelaide Arcade with adjoining Twin Street has its own name: Gay's Arcade. If you are looking for a place in the city to meet up, then Gay's Arcade is the perfect spot.

Gays Arcade Adelaide architecture
Gay's Arcade Photo: L. Parsons


Construction commenced on Gay's Arcade in 1885 following the completion of Adelaide Arcade. It was designed to have a 100 foot frontage to Twin Street and a depth of 119 feet to Adelaide Arcade. Architect, James Cumming who was a draper from Scotland, arrived in SA in 1846. He was at the forefront of progress in the new colony, owning drapers shops in Hindley Street and Kapunda.

After returning to England for a few years, he again made the journey to SA and this time advertised his services as an architect and surveyor. Cumming also left his mark on many other prominent Adelaide buildings including the North Adelaide Baptist Church where he later worshipped. He was also responsible for many country landmarks including the Angaston Institute and the Baptist Church and E . S. & A. bank building, both in Kapunda .

His forthright opinions on land reform and taxation were a result of his strong faith and keen sense of social justice.
Cumming is buried in the Mitcham Cemetery.

Gay's arcade Adelaide shopping golden shopping statue
Gay's Arcade cafe Photo: L. Parsons


Adelaide and Gay's Arcades are perfect examples of surviving nineteenth century architecture. Using ornamental cast iron, Kapunda marble and glass roof panels, it was completed at a cost of 11,000 pounds.

The Arcades, when completed, were among the first buildings in Adelaide to be illuminated by electric light, powered by a generator housed in one of the shops. A fire on the night of 3rd August 1880 completely gutted Gay's Arcade causing considerable damage to Adelaide Arcade too.

Today, it retains the light-filled ambience of a Victorian age. Many tenants have come and gone over the years and now you will find an eclectic mix of businesses on two levels. The ground floor of the heritage-listed building is the perfect spot for a lunch date and you can choose from coffee and cake & Italian cuisine at L'Incontro or Japanese at Katsumoto. The surrounding shops include TARTS gallery for handmade gifts and artworks, stunning jewellery, Helloworld travel agent, menswear and gorgeous colourful silks from the East at Silk & Linen. There is also a Chinese acupuncture and medical clinic.

museum gay's arcade adelaide display case
Gay's Arcade Museum on the mezzanine floor Photo: L. Parsons


Upstairs, you will find specialty businesses such as photographers, bespoke tailors, designers, architects and IT services. There is even a ballet dance school!

On the mezzanine level you will find the arcade museum. Press the accordion button and be transported back to a time gone by.
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Where: Gays Arcade, Rundle Mall
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